Why I’m Not Doing A 2020 Reading Challenge

Hello Bookworms!

If you’ve read my previous New Year’s resolutions post, you may have noticed that there was something missing. Achievements? Stunning examples of my excellent organisational skills? Well, yes… but also something else.

Reading challenges.

You see, I’m oddly motivated by prescribed reading lists (initially, anyway) so for the past few years I’ve undertaken a number of challenges. Popsugar? Check. Book Riot? Completed it three years in a row, mate. I’ve done chapter-a-day read-alongs, I’ve done recommended reading, I’ve played bookish bingo. And I’m kinda… over it.

That’s not to say that I haven’t gained an enormous amount from reading challenges. I love how they force you to read more widely. I’ve had my eyes opened to genres I’d never even heard of and I’ve found some real gems along the way. I’ve found a previously undiscovered love of food memoirs, I am addicted to non-violent true crime and I’ve discovered a whole host of black, asian, trans, queer, feminist and disabled writers/stories that I may not previously have sought out. The thing is, now that I’m more aware of the sheer breadth of diverse offerings out there, I want to find them for myself. I want to read more Octavia E Butler. I want to hear more about Japan and Mexico and New Zealand. I don’t want to be forced to read poetry, or romance (although the Courtney Milan book that I chose was quite enjoyable) or to ever have to read another adult novel out loud. Ever.

I also don’t want to get to October and think “only ten books left!” then realise that they’re the books that I really don’t want to read. The pressure that I feel every bloody year is immense. And of course, after spending hours checking that the books you’ve chosen actually fit within the criteria (the discussion groups on Goodreads can get pretty spicy) you REALLY don’t want to DNF any of them. That means hours of grudgingly progressing through dull novels (“I need to read 50 pages before I can sleep!”) in the hope that there’s a massive reference section in the back that will knock 10% off your target. For example, one of Book Riot’s prompts for their 2020 challenge is “read an audiobook of poetry” (please God no – if there’s anything worse than the majority of poetry out there, it’s slow poetry) or “read the last book in a series” (soooo… read the whole series first? Or just read the last book like an absolute psychopath and ruin the whole thing?)

One of the problems with reading challenges that no-one ever mentions is cost. If I were to buy a paperback for each of the 24 categories in the Read Harder challenge at an average cost of, lets say, £7, that works out to be £168 per year on books that you may not even want to read. Yes, there’s libraries and NetGalley and your already-purchased TBR but with such narrow categories you’re often left with no choice but to fork out. Think of how many amazing, interesting books you could get for £168. Think how many titles you could knock off your TBR if you didn’t feel forced to read around five books a year that you really didn’t want to and inevitably put you into a reading slump.

There’s also an issue with repetitiveness. I often eagerly check a newly released reading challenge, only to find that many of the categories define books that I’ve already read for a previous challenge. There’s only so much diversity out there that still gives readers a good choice of material and you often find that the only books that you want to read for a specific prompt are ones that you’ve already tackled. If you consider that the main point of a reading challenge is to make you read more widely but you’re already aware of the genres/types of books defined, you have to question its effectiveness. Remember how I said that I love a good food memoir? One of Book Riot’s prompts this year is “read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before”. Hmmmm.

So, I am officially Taking A Year Off. We’ll see how long that lasts.

TBR, I’m coming for you!!!!!


Are you taking part in any reading challenges this year? Do you enjoy them or have you found similar issues to me? Let me know in the comments!


TL;DR December Review

Hello Bookworms!

I can’t believe that’s Christmas over for another year.  As usual, we ate a lot, drank a lot, saw family and friends and even squeezed in a bit of reading (although not as much as I would have liked. We were at my Mum’s this year, which meant the usual Xmas eve crisis (no butter) and as always, one item of food being forgotten about on the big day itself. This year it was the pigs in blankets:


We had some fun days out over the festive period, including a trip to the magic lantern festival at Birmingham Botanical Gardens:

…as well as a lovely Boxing Day walk round Kenilworth Castle (which was basically me saying LOOK AT THE DOGGIES!)


We also had a family party and a get together for my friend’s sons birthday, which was nice – he’s three and him and his friends were very cute. We’re out at my friend’s brewery for New Years Eve so that should be fun too!

We’ve done almost nothing to the house this month – Christmas got in the way and it’s no fun doing DIY in an empty house with no central heating! We’ll start again in the New Year. It feels like the jobs will never end but when you consider that this time last year it looked like this:

And now it looks like this:

We’ve not done too badly! (No idea why the non-hubs is always bending over in my pictures, no wonder he has a bad back).

I completed the Read Harder Challenge in early December (which is unheard of – I’m usually finishing off the final few books over Christmas) so I can start afresh next year with the 2019 challenge. You can read my wrap up post here. The 2019 challenge has already been announced and I can’t wait to get started!

As usual, I also took part in the Calendar Girls meme where I chose Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist  as my favourite book that’s set in Winter. I also did a fun Bookish Naughty or Nice tag where I found out that I’d been naughty – oops!

I was so busy with Christmas that I didn’t post many reviews on my blog but I did finally finish Les Miserables which had taken me all year to read (!) I was so pleased that I’d stuck with the novel (even through the boring bits) and I’m looking forwards to a new four-book challenge – more news to come shortly!

The reviews I managed to post were:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: An epic, sprawling novel that sometimes drifted off into existential waffle but was nonetheless brilliant. Four-and-a-half out of five.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton: A fun, fast paced adventure that he somehow published from beyond the grave. Not his finest work but still a good book. Four out of five. 

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: I didn’t understand the hype around this book at all. It felt disconnected, unrealistic and many of the characters felt underwritten. Not terrible by any means, just not for me! Three out of five.

Of Women by Shami Chakrabharti: A fantastic overview of all the issues facing women but written in a dry, textbook style that loses the impact of the data in the way that it’s presented. A good overview but a thoroughly dull read.

So that’s December wrapped up! Have you had a good Christmas? Have you read any of the books I read last month? Follow the links or let me know in the comments!


Review: Interworld by Michael Reaves and Neil Gaiman


Interworld seems to be the “forgotten” story written by Neil Gaiman – but I loved it. Fun, chaotic and wildly imaginative it’s a real Boys Own adventure of a novel.

Joey Harker is an ordinary young boy living a perfectly normal life, until one day he walks (not walks, walks) into an entirely different dimension – and chaos ensues.

I was a little concerned that there may be an issue with having two main authors, but unlike the other Gaiman collaboration that I’ve read (Good Omens – where you can literally attribute different characters to either Neil or Terry Pratchett) the book flows seamlessly. There’s lots of action and a few unpredictable moments and unexpected events that amp the pace up and kept me interested until the end.

The characters could have been a little better defined – as they are all variants of anti-hero Joey from different dimensions it was very easy to confuse them. However, the other characters (in particular the baddies) were described in such terrifying detail that I had a very clear imagine of what they looked like.

I can imagine this book would appeal to tween or teenage boys – although I am neither and enjoyed it too.

I thought that Interworld was a madcap adventure that was a hugely imaginative and fun read. As it’s aimed at younger people there wasn’t really enough of a story to get my teeth into but I would still like to find out what happens in the rest of the series.

Rating 7/10

I read this book as part of the Popsugar reading challenge 2017 #8 Read a book with multiple authors.

Review: Hello Me, Its You ed. by Hannah Todd

Hello Me, Its You is an amazing little book of letters from sufferers of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues to their younger selves. A lot of these letters are really heartbreaking (especially the ones that say “I hate to tell you this, but it gets worse) but ultimately there is an awful lot of positivity.

I think that this book could really help someone who was suffering from mental health issues. It gives a voice to those who have already been through incredibly difficult times and shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One minor criticism was that I did find it a little repetitive and without knowing any of the back story of the authors some bits were a little cryptic. I think if there was more information about the people writing the letters then it would have allowed the reader to engage more – but I know that wasn’t the purpose of the book and obviously the participants in the project had to remain anonymous.

Overall, I thought that this book was brilliant. There were moments of humour, loss and regret but ultimately there was an overriding message of hope. It’s not often that you get to read such authentic accounts of such a difficult topic area. Honest, raw, occasionally difficult to read but utterly inspiring, I hope this book can be used to show people that there is a way to live through depression and to not give up.

Overall rating 8/10

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley! I also read this book as part of the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 #3 Read a book of letters.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017


Hello lovely readers,

Well, it’s that time of year again to start making lists, drawing progress charts and trawling Goodreads threads for suggestions – yes, it’s the new Book Riot #Read Harder 2017 Challenge!

As you’re probably aware, I became slightly obsessed with the 2016 challenge and completed it in a few months. I found some great reads and surprised myself at what I learnt (food memoirs are great, reading out loud sucks). So, I was really  looking forward to the 2017 Read Harder Challenge.

First impressions of the challenge are…they weren’t joking when the called it read harder, were they? Perhaps “categorise harder” would have been more appropriate – some of the themes are pretty obscure (a character of colour going on a spiritual journey anyone?) And exactly what constitutes a micropress?

Thankfully, there’s lots of discussion on Goodreads and Book Riot themselves have published articles to help readers to correctly identify novels which fit within the categories. Personally, I don’t get too hung up on the specifics as I think the overarching aim is just to make you read more widely but for some of the themes I literally have no idea.

I’ve noticed this year that there’s hardly any books on my TBR that I’ve been able to use for the challenge. I guess that’s the whole point but this does have a cost implication. Thankfully Netgalley is a wonderful source of free reading material so I guess I’ll be using them lots. Plus there’s always the library (although it has been threatened with imminent closure).

Unfortunately, some of the categories mentioned in the challenge hold very little appeal for me. I hate re-reading books, I can’t find anything engaging that fits the definition of “a non fiction book about technology” and I have very little interest in sports. If anyone has any suggestions for these categories please let me know!

Despite this, I hope that this year’s challenge is as enjoyable as last year’s and I look forwards to uncovering some hidden gems that would otherwise have passed me by.

Happy reading!

Lucinda x

Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge


Hello everyone!

Ok so I just went to publish this post and wordpress seems to have wiped everything I had written…grrr…

So my original post talked about the fact that I’ve almost finished the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 and that I’ve really enjoyed it although I found it quite easy to complete. I started the challenge in about June and have a quarter of a book left to go, after reading quite a lot of other books in between.

I’ve been looking around for another challenge for 2017 and I came across the popsugar reading challenge. As this challenge is roughly double the number of books that Book Riot suggests, I’ve looked at the maths and I think should just about be ok. I think I can fill a lot of the categories from my TBR but I imagine I will be using Netgalley as a primary source of reading material. This means I won’t be able to plan my reading out in advance (as reviews for netgalley books need to be completed within a given timeframe) – I can’t tell you how annoying that is. I think I’ll have to just plan the challenge out a month at a time and try to restrict what I’m currently reading to one or two books – not good for someone like me who usually has at least 5 books on the go at once. Again, grrrr.

Has anyone else done the popsugar challenge? If you have any thoughts or experiences please let me know!